It was at their first-ever vendor summit, hosted by a large holding corporation of about 75 very successful companies. Mr. Big, the CEO, is speaking from the lectern to the audience of several hundred, mostly suppliers and he says, “Please, get to know us!”
His entire talk was around this idea. He said to the vendors, in many different ways, “Please, get to know us!” Why would such a large, successful, and privately held organization put so much energy into simply saying, “Please, get to know us!” to their vendors? Because they wanted to even grow bigger and be even more profitable. That is what world-class organizations do—get better.
What about your organization? An interesting question for any business leader to ask of their own organization is, “How well do our venders know our culture, our mission, and our vision?” If your vendors do understand and embrace your culture, mission and vision, they can be an unstoppable force in helping you to get where you desire to go. This truly does serve the vendors too, as the better you do, the more you’ll most likely buy from them.
If your vendors do not have a crystal-clear understanding of the above, the next logical question to ask is, “What’s blocking them?”The answer could be as simple as, “They do not want to be my partner in success.” Or, the answer could be as complex as, “Unfortunately, my organization is vendor-hostile.”
More than likely, the issue is not that your vendors don’t want to partner, but rather how you perceive and treat your vendors. If you want to move away from a vendor-hostile culture, you’ll have to first ask, “How does my organization reward the procurement people?”If they are rewarded based on getting yet another five-cent/five-percent discount, you are rewarding the wrong thing. To move away from vendor-hostile toward vendor partnering, you must reward the total success of the buyer-seller partnering relationship.
What can you do to help your vendor’s see/enjoy the value of developing high-level partnering relationships with your company? Explore the following:
- Express trust in your vendors through both word and deed.
- Communicate frequently both your current and anticipated longer-term needs.
- Include your vendors in strategic planning and brainstorming sessions.
- Regularly drive the vendor-friendly paradigm, like a laser beam, into the hearts of your employees, managers and executives.
- Consider entering into long-term contractual relationships with your stellar vendors.
- Rather than squeeze your vendors for discounts or concessions, help them to take costs out of their product and the supply chain.
I know of no businesses that prosper without the help, assistance, and support of their vendors. Back to the Mr. Big mentioned earlier. I was invited to present the opening keynote at the vendor summit. Interviewing Mr. Big weeks before the summit, he mentioned to me that he wanted me to challenge both the vendors and his people alike. He also wanted me to instruct them in new and innovative reasons for building alliance relationships.
As I took the stage at this summit, I could sense the tension and apprehension in the room. The vendors were braced for a keynoter to tell them why it was in their best interest to give bigger discounts and partner with the holding corporation and their 75 plus units. Instead, they received a presentation where the mirror was placed up close to both the sellers and buyers behaviors. Following the presentation, there were a number of comments from the vendors about the “balanced” presentation.
What has always been clear to me and make so even more, following my keynote presentation was this: Treat them fair and with integrity—and your vendors will bend over backwards to try to help you. So why was this article titled, Your Customers are Saying, Get to Know Me rather than titled, Treat Your Vendors Well? I titled it with the latter; you most likely would not have read the article. Your vendors can only get to know you better if you let them. By the way, are your customers saying to you, “Get to know me better?
Ed is the Founder and CEO of the 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity, Cigar PEG Philanthropy through Fun, and president at Rigsbee Research which conducts qualitative member ROI research and consulting for associations and societies. He has been called “the dynamite that broke up our log jam” by association executives—rarely politically correct and almost always provocative—and from a dozen years as a United States Soccer Federation referee, Ed calls it the way he sees it. Exceptional resources at www.rigsbee.com.
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